The photos from the last Chaco Canyon post were from my cell phone. The photos in this post are from Mai’s Nikon camera. The Nikon images are better, but the landscape essence always comes through. Chaco is a sensuous yet austere location. The sky is so deep and the land is elevated right up into it. The atmosphere is thin, bright and lucid. Chaco feels centered in the Universe. There are very few humans there yet it is not lonely. The built environment is a book written on the land. The only legacy we left at Chaco Canyon were footprints in the sand, and ash in the fire ring. Our time there was quiet, a whisper to eternity, like a light breeze.
I appreciate more the way time spent in a landscape can work on you. It was a subtle thrill being in Chaco Canyon for three days and two nights. Living outdoors in the vivid morning light, long summer day, and under evening skies soothed us. Magnificence is out in the open at Chaco Canyon, on every surface. Cherishing being present and paying attention sharpens life.
One of the mysteries harkening forth at Chaco is what is means to develop a sustainable society. It is apparent at Chaco that we are a part of nature and the forms and monuments we make are made up of this raw material and return to it, just like we do. If we combine the analytical tools we have with history, writing, science, and add multicultural perspectives with the values of thinking seven generations ahead and beyond, you realize we can accomplish a lot now that future generations will be grateful for. We have explored to the ends of the earth and we solidly understand this is our one and only home. At Chaco home feels good.
Chaco speaks to universal human values beyond short term economic boom and bust cycles. The oil and gas industry in the San Juan Basin has created a sprawling industrial infrastructure web across the plateau landscape. This energy won’t last long, but the remediation legacy will, and permanent changes are happening in the atmosphere, on the surface, and below ground. The precious fossil energy fuels our journey. But what is our vision for where we are going with this development. The lesson of taking care of the landscape that takes care of us is a principle that guides us. Sustainable development is a creative, forward looking, purposeful work.
With the Antiquities Act of 1906 we increased our valuation of this Chacoan heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes Chaco as a world heritage site. One notable aspect is much of the building and infrastructure such as roads appear to have aesthetic values above all else. Their major function was to serve as a cultural center and to express and direct a world view. These sophisticated elements of society imbue our lives with meaning and gratification beyond basic necessities. Chaco tells stories of human beings reaching out to make sense of our works on this earth. Chaco is a great place to ride your bike, walk around, look, think and listen. Absorb the place. Stay awhile.